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Rice v. Poppe

Supreme Court of Nebraska

April 28, 2016

Brenda R. Rice, appellant,
v.
Terrance A. Poppe, an individual, and Morrow, Poppe, Watermeier & Lonowski, P.C., a limited liability organization, appellees.

1. Summary Judgment: Appeal and Error. An appellate court affirms a lower court's grant of summary judgment if the pleadings and admitted evidence show that there is no genuine issue as to any material facts or as to the ultimate inferences that may be drawn from the facts and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

2. __: __. In reviewing a summary judgment, an appellate court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom the judgment was granted, and gives that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences deducible from the evidence.

3. Issue Preclusion. The applicability of claim and issue preclusion is a question of law.

4. Judgments: Appeal and Error. When reviewing questions of law, an appellate court resolves the questions independently of the conclusion reached by the trial court.

5. Summary Judgment: Proof. The party moving for summary judgment must make a prima facie case by producing enough evidence to show that the movant is entitled to judgment if the evidence were uncontroverted at trial.

6. __: __. If the party moving for summary judgment makes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to produce evidence showing the existence of a material issue of fact that prevents judgment as a matter of law.

7. Malpractice: Attorney and Client: Proof: Negligence: Proximate Cause. To succeed in a legal malpractice claim, a plaintiff must ultimately prove three elements: (1) the attorney's employment, (2) the attorney's neglect of a reasonable duty, and (3) that such negligence resulted in and was the proximate cause of loss to the plaintiff.

8. Attorney and Client. Attorneys owe their clients the duty to exercise such skill, diligence, and knowledge as that commonly possessed by attorneys acting in similar circumstances.

9. Attorney and Client: Compromise and Settlement. Lawyers must advise clients with respect to settlements with the same skill, knowledge, and diligence with which they pursue all other legal tasks.

10. Malpractice: Attorney and Client. The general standard of an attorney's conduct is established by law, but whether an attorney's conduct fell below the standard in a particular case is a question of fact.

11. Attorney and Client: Expert Witnesses. Expert testimony is generally required to show whether an attorney's performance conformed to the standard of conduct.

12. Malpractice: Attorney and Client: Expert Witnesses: Negligence. Under the common-knowledge exception, expert testimony is not needed to show whether an attorney's performance conformed to the standard of conduct if the alleged negligence is within the comprehension of laypersons.

13. Malpractice: Attorney and Client. A client cannot recover in a legal malpractice case if the client's own conduct caused his or her injury.

14. __: __. In a legal malpractice claim, whether a client's failure to read or understand a disputed document is a superseding cause depends on the facts.

15. Issue Preclusion: Judgments. Issue preclusion applies if (1) an identical issue was decided in a prior action, (2) the prior action resulted in a final judgment on the merits, (3) the party against whom the doctrine is to be applied was a party or was in privity with a party to the prior action, and (4) ...


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